The Common Good
March-April 1997

The Nature of Faith

by Bob Hulteen | March-April 1997

Working on the new Sojourners environmental resource, Holy Ground, I have examined a large body of works on environmental theology.

Working on the new Sojourners environmental resource, Holy Ground, I have examined a large body of works on environmental theology. Following is a representative, though not exhaustive, annotated inventory of these.

The Best Preaching on Earth: Sermons on Caring for Creation (Judson Press, 1996), edited by Stan L. LeQuire, is a unique, practical resource for pastors and laypeople who regularly address groups. A handful of evangelical preachers and speakers, including Madeleine L’Engle, Howard Snyder, John Stott, Cal DeWitt, Myron Augsburger, Sharon Gallagher, and our own Jim Wallis, offer powerful anecdotes and insightful analyses that can serve as grist for "newly enlightened" Christian environmentalists.

Another anthology, Embracing Earth: Catholic Approaches to Ecology (Orbis Books, 1994), edited by Albert LaChance and John Carroll, offers a helpful look at the numerous, though normally complementary, Catholic approaches to a theological understanding of the relationship among God, humanity, and the Earth. Articles on such topics as "Earthly Offerings," "A Loaves and Fishes View of Productivity," "Appropriate Technology and Healing the Earth," "Christ the Ecologist," and "Eating the Body of the Lord" are included.

Jesus the Wisdom of God: An Ecological Theology (Orbis Books, 1995), by Denis Edwards, examines the ecological crisis through the lens of the biblical concept "Wisdom." After considering the usage of "Wisdom" in the Hebrew scriptures and by Jesus, Edwards offers a compelling trinitarian argument for the care of the created order. This comprehensive work builds bridges that can truly expand the throng of Christian environmentalists.

Jay B. McDaniel casts his net even wider in With Roots and Wings: Christianity in An Age of Ecology and Dialogue (Orbis Books, 1995). Though overly optimistic at times, McDaniel’s honest and courageous willingness to pursue true interfaith dialogue using the rubric of environmental reconstruction is a contribution to several areas of study. If you are interested in pluralistic expressions of faith as well as ecology, this is definitely the book for you.

Frequent Sojourners contributor and Union Theological Seminary professor Larry L. Rasmussen offers a helpful (albeit realistic) "state of the Earth" message, an overview of interfaith interpretations of this reality, and an ethical framework through which to make our actions concrete in his Earth Community, Earth Ethics (Orbis Books, 1996). Because justice is a central assumption of Rasmussen’s work, his ecotheology is palatable to a wide variety of activists.

Ecotheology: Voices From South and North (jointly published by WCC Publications and Orbis Books, 1994), edited by David G. Hallman, if at first appearing to appeal to political correctness, actually is a tremendous presentation of the various aspects of the ecological debate that are too often neglected by all sides in this country—the marginalized, oppressed, and poor people in Third and First Worlds.

Sojourners contributing editor Rosemary Radford Ruether has edited a marvelous array of essays by women from several continents in her Women Healing Earth: Third World Women on Ecology, Feminism, and Religion (Orbis Books, 1996). The essays offer an ecological view from those who are often most involved with the Earth’s care and most dependent upon it for long-term sustenance. Women from Latin America, Asia, and Africa provide unique perspectives, including finding their own stories among those of biblical women who similarly were dependent upon the Earth for their being.

Green Guerrillas: Environmental Conflicts and Initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean (Monthly Review Press, 1996), edited by Helen Collinson, offers a similar, though more singularly focused, perspective. Included in this book are a number of success stories by organized groups of indigenous Latin Americans. Models for slowing down the devastation of the Earth are put forward in this book.

Editor Jace Weaver’s Defending Mother Earth: Native American Perspectives on Environmental Justice (Orbis Books, 1996) is a very strong and interesting work. Authors such as Phyllis Young, Russell Means, and Sojourners contributing editor George Tinker debunk myths on all sides of the debate and create space for a truly new discussion. With its strong sensitivity to justice issues, and its solid interpretations of the problems we face, this theological effort could be a monumental offering for people willing to be challenged and to change.

Economics, Ecology, and the Roots of Western Faith: Perspectives From the Garden (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers), by Robert R. Gottfried, stresses the value of relationship with the Earth. Gottfried pushes the justice question strongly as he envisions a new heaven and a new Earth, based in the value of association. He seeks to integrate this view into a new economic and spiritual relationship that will create a more just society.

(Obviously, Orbis Books has numerous theological contributions on the topic of earthkeeping and justice. These books are offered in the Ecology and Justice Series. While the series is of varying quality, most major theological and ethical issues are examined. The series is truly a major aid to this field of study.)

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